The Dinner Conversation

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Why I Love Living Downtown

A little while ago New Town Macon stopped by The Rookery to interview me. They wanted to know why I loved living in downtown Macon.

The answer is simple, even if it does lead to a long conversation with me gushing over downtown Macon.

I love living on the pulse of this beautiful city. Macon is definitely a city that changes from it's core and radiates out. So, whatever happens downtown is fresh and new and it spreads throughout the city.

I have been living in downtown close to 10 years now and the changes I've seen happen over years have been tremendous! 10 years ago the perception of downtown was that it was violent and unsafe. However, at that time for me downtown was full of the most interesting people in Macon. The people who lived in downtown were all like me in that they saw the beauty of the buildings. We saw the potential for each store front to be filled with places to shop, to eat, or to have fun. We saw the old homes around downtown for all their charm and while others chose the neighborhoods in other parts of the city, beautiful though they may have been, for us there was no question that downtown was home.

We viewed downtown as our own playground. We bonded together as a neighborhood with some streets taking on nicknames for all their residents. Then we began pushing to see the kind of fun we wanted. Before long the changes were starting to show. In time I was able to find work downtown at one of the eateries. I was bartending and serving up great food! It was then I began preaching the gospel of how great it was to live downtown.

Every day, I walked to work enjoying the beautiful weather and scenery. I walked to my favorite spots to hang out with friends who also lived in downtown. There was great music coming in from all over the region, and the local bands all played around downtown. Still, one of the things I would get asked is, "Isn't it unsafe to live downtown? Aren't you scared you're going to get robbed or worse?"

The thought never crossed my mind. I walked the streets of downtown all times of the day and night and all I ever saw were friends. Now, I'm not saying there was no crime. It's just that it was far less than what some people expected it to be.

We were having a great time living downtown but we never rested on our laurels. We had a dream of a thriving downtown to live in and we continued to push to see improvements and more happenings. Others took note of what was happening. Now some of us who started out as young barflys were moving into jobs that could help to expand on our love of this beautiful downtown area we called home.

New businesses were starting to open up. Old businesses, like our very own Rookery, took on new life. Festivals like the Cherry Blossom Festival,
Bragg Jam, and Pan African Festival got better each year. The best part of it all was that it was open for all to see and enjoy. We welcomed each new face we saw in downtown with a smile, a handshake, and the offer to buy them a drink at our favorite bar. We didn't care about race, sexual preferences, economic status, or even if people downright considered you to be weird for whatever reason. In fact, we preferred the weird ones!

Now when I walk these same streets I've been walking for the past 10 years, I have great places to stop and get coffee. They are full of some of the best places to eat in all of Macon. There is still plenty of music to be had and even bigger names have taken note and are starting to stop by venues and events held in downtown. Now people no longer seem to even know of the stigma of being crime ridden that downtown Macon once carried. It has faded away to a bight new day where families enjoy Second Sunday picnics and music at Washington Park thanks to the College Hill Alliance, and where kids of all ages flock to Magnolia Street for the Soap Box Derby each year.

Now, we know for sure that downtown Macon's First Precinct has the lowest crime rate in Macon. People feel free to enjoy great activities like the Mulberry Street Market every Wednesday. They flock into downtown to enjoy the food, arts, drinks, and music that has come to represent the celebration of First Friday each month.

The secret of downtown is out! There's no stopping it now as more and more people move into downtown. Even superstars are coming to downtown to hang out! It's becoming natural to see announcements of movies coming to town to film the next big box office hit in Macon. It's almost no big deal when you look over and Harrison Ford is sitting at the next table over at The Rookery eating one of our famous burgers.

Just yesterday I spent the day with Food Network's Emily Ellyn. She is touring Georgia with the Georgia
Cattlemen's Association to find the best burger in Georgia. Her first stop was The Rookery because she had heard about our Rocking Chair Ranch burgers.

And each time someone visits us here in downtown, they return home singing the praises of the Macon. They talk of the good times they had and how beautiful the city was. As a person who has lived in downtown for so long, I am filled with a sense of pride. People love the little area of this town I live in as much as I do!

I was overcome with pride as I sat in the movie theater seeing the Jackie Robinson movie "42" for the first time. As the camera zooms in on what is undoubtedly downtown's Third Street Fountain and Jackie Robinson steps off the bus, downtown Macon had never looked more beautiful to me. As I watched the scene unfold with a giant grin on my face, I could only think, now the whole world can see this beautiful neighborhood I call home!

This is downtown Macon, and I wouldn't live anywhere else!


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